The Acceptance of Homosexuality in South Africa
For hundreds of years South Africa has endured a constant power struggle, oppression under the apartheid government, the AIDS epidemic and homophobia. Internationally there are currently four countries that permit same-sex marriages, which include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Canada. Even though homosexuality remains largely taboo in South Africa, the country is taking steps towards overall equality and improved human rights allowing such unions to take place where this lifestyle was once forbidden. In modern day Africa homosexuality is illegal for gay men in 29 countries and for lesbians in 20 countries making homophobia a widespread epidemic. This legal status of homosexuals in some countries shows how strong and prevalent homophobia is across the continent. Today in the United States homosexuality is not accepted as being right in society but it is accepted as being a part of that society and a lifestyle for some individuals. This general acceptance is all you need to create a sense of equilibrium. It is much easier to come to terms with being gay outside of Africa because society in Africa is smaller and people talk more. Word of mouth travels quickly in Africa especially in close-knit communities. This same thing goes for the United States as well. Some individuals may find it easier to come out and come to terms with being gay when they are not in their home setting. You don't have to embrace homosexuality, but you must at least acknowledge the fact it's there and comprised of all races and all colors. Homosexuality is not limited to the western world like some cultures in Africa believe. Although there is no word in any African language, which describes homosexuals or homosexuality, the word moffie is often used in its place as a derogatory term most similar to "dyke" or "faggot" in the United States. Moffie is derived from the word hermaphrodite. Like homosexuals, hermaphrodites are considered to be a third sex or third class citizen that does not readily identify as being male or female. According to Achmat, a black South African activist, "Moffies were men who dressed like women or who dressed in high style. Moffies were men who were really women in spirit. They spoke like women, flirted openly with men and kept men." Often times the hairdressers was a place where straight men could go to receive sexual favors from moffies. Straight men keep this lifestyle on the down low just as much as gay men keep their lifestyle on the down low.
It is important to know that in the entire region of West Africa and all over in more isolated regions of Africa the issue of sex is not one that people talk about and feel comfortable discussing openly, as some countries do in the west. Another difference that might be very striking to Westerners is that even men who regularly have sexual encounters with other men will say no if you ask him if he is "gay" or has ever pursued a gay lifestyle. And you should ask that same man if there is homosexuality in Africa, a likely response will be "No, there is nothing like that in Africa." Black men in Africa and in the United States choose to be on the down low about their sexual preference due to rejection and persecution from friends, family and their community. The fact is that ten percent of any given population consists of men and women that purse partners of the same sex. That is one out of every ten people you come into contact with daily. The numbers although not scientifically proven act as a guideline to understanding a population of people. Officially, the act of sodomy was a punishable offense under the apartheid law with a possible prison sentence of up to 14 years or even death. This was a crime in which a private citizen had the right to use lethal and deadly force to make an arrest if you were caught and or suspected in committing this crime, even if it was within the privacy of your own home. Once the apartheid...
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